Having just recovered from my jet lag I wanted to share my thoughts of my first trip to Microsoft’s HQ in Redmond, USA.
Firstly I had very high expectations of being there, I mean this is the home of one of the worlds largest tech companies!
We arrived on the Saturday afternoon and our first meeting was not till the Monday so I had a couple of days to acclimatise. We arrived at the hotel (my business partner and I) and the first thing we were greeted with in reception was the Microsoft Surface table (who remembers this?).
We then checked in to our rooms and started with a walk around the town. It is clear that Microsoft is not just an isolated campus outside of Seattle, but it’s the fabric of Seattle, its everywhere. From a number of high rise buildings (I am told the senior execs are located here), to memorabilia in pretty much every shop right through to people walking around with Microsoft jackets on. Microsoft clearly flows through the veins of this city and it’s making me more excited.
We were told by Microsoft employees in the UK that we must visit the Boeing factory as it’s an impressive site. So off we set in our convertible Ford Mustang (when in Rome!) and drove to the factory in a place called Everett. We did stop off at a stereotypical American diner which was fab and incredibly friendly. If you get a chance I highly recommend you pop in to Totem in Everett (make sure you are hungry!)
After breakfast we arrived at the factory. All I can say is WOW, this place is HUMONGOUS! In fact it’s in the Guinness World Records as the largest building in the world by volume at 472 million cubic feet (13.3 million cubic meters). It was like being on the scene of a Discovery Channel documentary. We also got to see what more than £1 Billion Dollars of planes looked like!
So Monday arrives and I couldn’t be any more excited, I mean I’d been planning this trip for weeks and having worked with Microsoft for nearly 20 years I felt that I was deserving of it.
We drove to the campus and after quickly realising that just typing in to the Sat Nav ‘Microsoft Campus’ was a mistake, we refined our search and entered in the building number. I was starting to realise that this was not your average campus.
We entered the building from the underground car park in building 42 and were greeted by two welcoming receptionists who showed us to our meeting room. I must admit that at this point I was a little underwhelmed but I had no idea what was ahead.
We had our first couple of meetings and then decided to go for some lunch. So I’ve been to Microsoft lunch rooms in the UK on many occasions so I wasn’t expecting to be surprised but I hadn’t considered the enormity of this place. It was like being in a food court in a large shopping centre! Besides all the food the most impressive part was that Microsoft do NOT have people taking payment. Everything is done on trust and people can help themselves to food and use a machine to pay. This really impressed me and made me think that if you trust your people you will get more out of them.
In the afternoon we had our EBC (Executive Briefing Council). This is a session held by the senior leads within Microsoft who discuss plans with all of the worlds leading partners. To get to our building all we had to do was hail a free Microsoft taxi who kindly escorted us to our building. This service is so well organised that they coordinate with the control room to collect other visitors/workers to share with the ride with you.
Upon arriving at the EBC we were greeted by the likes of Phil Sorgen (Corporate Vice President), Clare Barclay (UK General Manager) and many other people. In the boardroom we were given Microsoft Surface tablets to use to make notes, albeit I declined so I could use my amazing Microsoft Surface Book (sorry couldn’t resist showing off!).
The one thing that is clearly evident in Microsoft is that they drink a LOT of coffee. Practically everywhere you look there are coffee machines, people serving coffee and definitely people consuming coffee. I will forever more associate the smell of coffee with Microsoft. That said, did you know Starbucks was born in Seattle?
After our EBC day one we got a chance to go to the Microsoft store. This is where all employees can spend all of their hard earned money on Gadgets. Naturally to get there we were picked up by the Microsoft mini bus!
When we arrived at the store we were greeted by two life sized Halo characters (see leading picture). This is the stuff kids dreams are made of. I couldn’t spend my money quick enough after convincing myself that all my Xbox one controllers needed upgrading and I needed more Microsoft pens and notebooks!
The next few days the wow experience continued. We got to play with the Microsoft Hololens which was truly unbelievable (sorry no pics allowed due to NDA’s) but if you don’t know what this is, watch this video and prepare to be amazed. We also got to play and learn about the new Microsoft Surface Hub (shipping now!). The Hub is going to change the boardroom/meeting room forever and if you haven’t seen it in action check it out NOW!
Everywhere you go in the campus there is uber cool design and great tech. Inspiring posters decorated the walls and they give you the overwhelming feeling that you are a part of something special being here and people genuinely want to make this a great company.
For those of you who are feeling sorry for me that this was all work and no play! I did manage to take a few days off and drove to Whistler in Canada for 2 days skiing. As they say all work and no play……
Thank you to Microsoft and all the team for making my first trip a memorable one. I loved my time here and learnt so much. More importantly I know there are lots of great tech companies I could work with, but Microsoft are truly pushing boundaries and driving innovation in the work place and changing peoples lives for the better. I am proud to be called a Microsoft partner and I cannot wait to do more with them.